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The Australian Kangaroo and Map – One of The Greatest Stamp Designs?

Little did the world’s most well known philatelist expect what was coming next - stamps without his portrait at all!

The first uniform Australian Commonwealth stamp issue featured the now popular and familiar - but then groundbreaking and radical - single kangaroo within a map of Australia.

It made its appearance amid a great deal of controversy - no other Australian stamp design has created as much discussion and debate.

In January 1911 a competition to produce a design for the first Australian Commonwealth stamp was organised. From over 1,000 designs submitted by over 500 participants the first prize of £100 was awarded to Hermann Altman (of Victoria) for an elaborate portrait of King George V flanked by an Emu and a Kangaroo, plus the emblems of each State. The second prize of £50 was split between Edwin Arnold (England) and Donald Mackay (England).

However, the new Postmaster-General, C.E. Frazer, rejected the winning design on his appointment in October 1911. The prominent Victorian artist Blamire Young (a noted watercolourist) was commissioned to produce new designs, which were submitted in January1912 - the ten designs all featured scenes within an outline map of Australia. Frazer himself pushed through a design that featured a single kangaroo within an outline map - the kangaroo clearly based on that drawn by Edwin Arnold for his prize-winning design. Three essays were produced, with a vertical format essay being adopted.

Printed examples of this design were released to the press - an unusual occurrence - in April 1912. Initial reactions were generally hostile, particularly because of the omission of the King's head and its Republican overtones. Frazer was undaunted and (after a couple of small design alterations to appease some of the critics) the stamp was issued on 2nd January 1913.

The controversial stamp has since rightly (in our opinion!) become an accepted design classic, but Frazer did not live to see it, dying of pneumonia in November 1913 at the age of 33.

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